What Does the BBVA Acquisition Mean for Simple?

What Does the BBVA Acquisition Mean for Simple?
The financial world is abuzz about the recent acquisition of Simple by the Spanish banking giant BBVA.  The news is surprising, but not unusual for a banking group that has invested in other innovative companies such as Freemonee, SumUp, and Radius.  The deal also legitimizes a financial start-up that has garnered quite a bit of skepticism among some in the industry, despite a small yet dedicated and growing customer base.  Banks are clearly considering these innovators to be significant enough to validate their acquisition.  Simple is a brand, not simply a product offering. It has recognition outside of the industry, and the effect on existing customers makes this acquisition different from the norm. As the relationship unfolds, it will be interesting to see how Simple responds to the following:
  • Will Simple really remain independent? The statements released by both parties claim it will. Recent acquisitions of Nest by Google and WhatsApp by Facebook also made similar claims of maintaining autonomy, but that doesn’t mean it will remain the case.  Yahoo acquired Flickr in 2005 with similar promises of independence, yet in the subsequent years drove an up-and-coming innovator straight into the ground.  The fear for Simple customers is that the unbeatable user experience and exceptional customer service that made it so appealing will slowly be lost as the two companies integrate. Accounts will remain at Bancorp bank for the time being, but the inevitable move to BBVA must be graceful, or a once innovative product is liable to lose the only edge it had in the market
  • Does this deal allow Simple to become more complex?  The big attraction of this deal for Simple is that it gives them access to the resource of BBVA, a massive multinational financial institution with a clear penchant for funding innovation.  The main complaint with the start-up since launch was the limitations that came with not actually being a bank.  Simple didn’t do mortgages, it didn’t do investments, and there were no credit cards.  For the PFM features to be truly useful, users would have to go ‘all in’ with Simple.  More resources could allow for more development into a more diverse set of products and financial offerings, increasing the potential of the already well designed PFM platform.  The test will be the following: will Simple be allowed to continue its own brand with its own products, or will it simply become (pun intended) a funnel to push BBVA’s core business?
The acquisition of Simple, no matter what happens, is a good sign for financial start-ups, especially those that compete directly on Banks’ turf.    The industry could learn from the way BBVA has taken a page from tech giants and big pharma. There are hundreds of innovative Fintech companies out there, and great ideas don’t always have to come from internal development—in fact for large banks they rarely do. But Simple has now become part of the traditional banking world they used to decry.  Will the financial services industry’s challenging record of financial innovation rub off, or will the resources of a megabank allow Simple to grow into a true disruptor?  Only time will tell.

NCR Acquires Digital Insight – What’s Next?

NCR Acquires Digital Insight – What’s Next?
NCR announced yesterday that it is acquiring Digital Insight for $1.65 billion. This is a rather quick “flip” for private equity firm Thoma Bravo, as they purchased Digital Insight from Intuit for $1.03 billion this past summer. The move makes a lot of sense for a firm like NCR. However, I am left scratching my head as to why they didn’t purchase Digital Insight from Intuit a few months ago. Was Intuit in a rush to sell of the Digital Insight assets? Was NCR not ready or not aware that Digital Insight was for sale? There are some unanswered questions here that don’t add up. They add up however for Thoma Bravo as a quick $620 million is nothing to sneeze at! The acquisition presents several opportunities and challenges. Opportunities:
  • NCR is aiming to become a fintech powerhouse. Yes, NCR is already a large player. However this acquisition allows them to expand further into digital banking . We have seen similar stories with ACI’s acquisition of S1 and Online Resources, D&H’s acquisition of Harland, Fiserv’s acquisition of Open Solutions, etc. This is the next wave of solution providers competing on digital and multichannel banking. In other words, there is plenty of opportunity for banks to look beyond the classic core banking providers for online and/or mobile banking. 
  • NCR will be able to focus on multichannel banking and cross-selling their solutions. Online, mobile, ATM, branch transformation – these are all areas that NCR can zone in on. Not to mention that the firm has a multichannel marketing solution. Both firms have solid client bases that can be tapped into.
  • NCR already has digital banking solutions. The firm will now add a host of new and modern solutions to their digital banking arsenal. The Digital Insight assets will allow NCR to become a more significant player in the online and mobile banking space.
Challenges:
  • Digital Insight can’t afford to be in limbo for so long. The firm has been caught up in the M&A doldrums for quite some time, starting from when Intuit decided to sell the firm. Other firms spent this time investing in their solutions and building out new capabilities.
  • NCR is going to have to move very quickly in order to compete. Newer firms like Q2 have been gobbling up market share from the classic providers. Other startups are emerging on the scene. NCR will have to forge ahead rather quickly in order to stay relevant in the online and mobile banking market.
  • NCR is going to have to manage the expectations and concerns of Digital Insight clients. Digital Insight clients have bounced around from Intuit to Thoma Bravo to NCR in a very short period of time. This can be a frustrating experience and NCR is going to have to work hard to make these clients happy.
  • NCR and Digital Insight both offer digital banking solutions. Some of this product overlap will need to be rationalized.
This acquisition is certainly big news for the fintech industry, and I’m curious to see where it will take NCR. Please feel free to weigh in with your thoughts and comments.